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Launching a Dialogue: Conquering Deafness

Launching a Dialogue: Conquering Deafness

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Posted by HHIssues on June 07, 2000 at 09:56:27:

Launching a Dialogue: Conquering Deafness

by John Wheeler

The foundation of hearing health is shifting. Attention and resources are moving from a preoccupation with deafness toward overcoming hearing loss and tinnitus--in every degree and all age groups. In time, lifelong hearing health will be at the center of national efforts. As research and engineering
triumphs force this shift, brain and genetic research will expand, popular commitment to hearing health will flourish, and funding for research in
hearing science will increase substantially. The National Campaign for Hearing Health (NCHH) is working to galvanize this fundamental shift. However, the hearing health field itself is not addressing the breadth and scope of impending changes. This dialogue within our field is the next step to making policy choices in response to the shift.

BREAKTHROUGHS Breakthroughs in electronic technology and government policy have converged to a history-making point over the past two years. What was once merely a thought, a dream, is now a reality: We can conquer deafness. We can overcome all degrees of hearing loss with the tools already in hand. The combination of implant technology, hearing aids, and strong parental and government support of universal newborn hearing screening can enable nearly every deaf baby to grow up self-identifying--and regarded by others--as a hearing person. We are realizing that children and adults who lose their hearing can regain it. Since ancient times, deafness and hearing loss have been thought of as part of the human condition, but no more. As America overcomes deafness, resources will be directed toward providing a lifetime of hearing health. Services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people will grow in some areas and decline in others. The challenge for the hearing health field--the economic sector that includes physicians and audiologists, hearing-related charities, consumer groups, research institutions, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and government agencies--is to mobilize resources to achieve this historic medical goal. If we can unite, the country as a whole will support our drive. American donors will finally correct the huge gap between annual giving to basic research in hearing science (around $10 million per year) and what is given to other health areas (over $70 million for blindness).

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